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GM alfalfa raises questions

By Andrew Coppolino

The debate swirling around genetically modified organisms (GMO) remains heated, and that includes at the corner of King and Benton streets in Kitchener on Wednesday afternoon.

Waving placards and chanting, dozens of community protesters and members of the National Farmers Union (NFU) occupied Speakers’ Corner, while in the hotel across the street the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) discussed introducing genetically modified alfalfa into eastern Canada.

NFU Ontario regional council member and Owen Sound farmer Charlie Nixon said the CSTA, representing the interests of 128 corporate members working in seed research, production and marketing,
did n’t invite any of the general farm organizations to the meeting, although some organic organizations were invited.

“We say jokingly that the CSTA has not invited the bees either. They are trying to convince us that what they are calling co-existence can work. It’s the bees that do the pollinating. If they’re pollinating one farm with GM alfalfa and then go across the road to a non-GM alfalfa field there will be cross-pollination. It’s inevitable,” said Nixon.

The NFU is concerned that introducing it into eastern Canada will wreak havoc commercially. And in discussions surrounding genetic modification, the name Monsanto and the question of human health inevitably pop up too.

Stephen Denys, a Chatham-area crop farmer and president of the CSTA, said in a telephone interview that we’ve been eating genetically modified soybeans for about 17 years. He says long-term studies have proven that genetic modification is safe, and adds that Roundup Ready trait alfalfa has already been approved for use.

“The Government of Canada has deemed it safe, so it’s already registered in Canada,” Denys said.

Alfalfa would be the first perennial Roundup Ready crop, whereas corn, soybeans and canola are grown in one year and they are done.

According to Denys, the alfalfa will be cut several times a year as a food source for livestock and there should be no cross-contamination. “If you’re cutting that crop multiple times a year, it never goes to seed. Producers in eastern Canada have said they want this trait in the alfalfa, and we don’t see the concerns from the export markets because if the producer is growing it the way they’re supposed to, it never goes to seed,” he said.

It seems to me that assurances that cross-pollination will not happen leave a lot to accident and the whims of Mother Nature, which could hurt farmers. Add to that the issue of humans eating GMO foods, and we probably should have concerns.

One Response to “GM alfalfa raises questions”

  1. clarke_hamel says:

    If food is nutrition then genetically-modified organisms are not. They are not proven safe. They are a vehicle designed to sell pesticides. The seed or food is actually inconsequential to this purpose. By definition, GMOs should not be associated with or even called food. They are Roundup Ready toxic waste. They in no way promote or enable Canada’s optimum health and wellness. And I have no intention of becoming collateral damage in a GMO pesticide-spewing war.

    I do not want it. I will not consume it. I will not pay more for organics because of government approved, foreign multinational, GMO contamination of organic feedstock. The lack of GMO labelling on contaminated food constitutes a major fraud. I will support any popular movement that brings politicians who support this deception to immediate and severe justice.

    It is the government’s responsibility to disallow GMO or contaminated seed and seed products from the market. It is the responsibility of GMO producing companies to clean up their mess, stop producing and selling GMO seeds, and gather up all the tainted bees and contaminated weeds and have them destroyed. They should also pay damages to landowners and to a public trust fund to eliminate contaminated seed pools and restore contaminated agricultural lands to their pre-toxic GMO state.

    We do not want or need foreign multinationals developing contaminated seed for Canada. There should be no market for GMO contaminated seed and seed products. We can avert a creeping GMO human-manufactured plague by honouring our seed heritage, preserving it and propagating it in harmony with sustainable and renewable farming methods. There is no substitute for organic food and the safe, life giving practices that maintain it.

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